I’ll admit that Brian Vander Ark’s vocals on the entirety of Villians soundtracked my early high school years, giving me plenty of reason to play the album and dozens like it on repeat as I navigated teenage awkwardness. Unfortunately the ’90s alternative rock scene wasn’t built on longevity, at least where myopic, aurally insensitive radio execs were concerned, and bands like the Verve Pipe, Harvey Danger and Semisonic never got the long-term traction they so richly deserved. It wasn’t that they couldn’t write another hit, but rather that radio and label honchos wouldn’t have known said hit if it broadsided them.
Thirteen years after their last full-length rock album, however, The Verve Pipe returns June 17th with Overboard, an album which relights the fire under their blend of well-crafted pop and catch-you-off-kilter rock. With “Crash Landing,” the album’s first promotional single, they show you really can’t go back again — this is no “Villians” or “Photograph” — but you can put a new spin on something and reinvent yourself in a way which is refreshing and well worth the listen. “I’m hearing words no one’s spoken,” he sings. “And I can feel my heart beat though I know it’s broken. Nothing is the way it seems, like being awake in a dream.” The chorus then crash-lands with an impact that launches this song instantly into the memory banks.
If you’re looking for the band to tread water through nostalgic carbons of what you heard while walking those sophomore hallways, you may be disappointed. But it’s refreshing to hear a band return after all these years, arriving with the verve to sound as fresh in the current musical climate as their alt-grunge did when we first heard it in the early ’90s. That the band’s songs feature hooks as brilliantly singable even after a decade and a half in limbo is the icing on the cake. Overboard is the most pleasant surprise of the summer so far, and it’s an album you shouldn’t miss.
Brooklyn’s Hurrah! A Bolt of Light! brings a sensational blend of U2 arena rock and Augustana-inspired pop to the table via the entirety of their self-titled debut album, due out April 1st. The band spent time with producer John Fields (Switchfoot, Soul Asylum, The Rembrandts) in Los Angeles working to get the sound right, and I’ll come out and say it: there’s not a dud on the album.
“In Over My Head” in particular is a shining example of what the band offers. “I keep my heart in a little box … I should have known there’d be hell to pay,” Will Farr sings, backed by shimmering guitars, thundering percussion and echoing hand-clap fueled backing vocals. And while he may feel as though he’s in over his head, listeners will fall head-over-heels as they sing along with this perfectly radio-ready nugget.
Help break this band wide and share the track now, available to stream and download exclusively at “Hear! Hear!” via the above link. It’s easy to say there’s nothing great making it to radio but it’s another thing entirely to sit back and let something this good slip away. (You can follow Hurrah! A Bolt of Light! on Facebook and Twitter.)
Welcome to The “Hear! Hear!” and Now Podcast, a twice-weekly showcase for new music which will feature reviews of singles and albums from across the pop spectrum. Check back Tuesdays and Fridays at “Hear! Hear!” or subscribe to our podcast via Feedburner or iTunes (coming soon) In the future this podcast may expand to include commentary as well as site exclusives, including full-album listens. But I want to expand this in ways which will excite you as listeners and discoverers of new music. So feel free to email me at any time, if you have suggestions for improving the podcast or ideas regarding bands you feel should be showcased.
The first band profiled here is Alive Way, a Lithuanian rock band already having built a name for itself overseas, both while touring festivals there and while competing (twice) for the Eurovision prize. Their new EP Footprints in the Snow blends the traditional holiday album with their own take on pop rock, making these songs worthy of radio play regardless of the season. You can hear more from the band at http://www.aliveway.net.
“I’M YOUR 911!” — Mumiy Troll’s “Swimming With Sharks” expands band’s hook-filled legacy, strongest English-language single yet
Read the “Hear! Hear!” interview with Ilya Lagutenko from last May.
It is fitting that Mumiy Troll’s latest single, “Swimming With Sharks,” builds its hook upon a surf-rock infused bass melody and a hook which catches you off guard with its insistent groove. Ilya Lagutenko’s giddy sense of pop-rock fun is catchy and makes this one of the band’s strongest singles yet, and their best by far in the English language. The video itself is pitch-perfect, proof of the band’s talent as Russia’s greatest pop export and more than enough reason to check them out if you’ve yet to take the plunge. Swimming with these sharks is all the more dangerous because there’s blood in the water, but what fun is there in always playing it safe?
Keep an eye out for the band’s 11th full-length, which they’re recording in English and Russian in between dates on their relentless touring schedule.
LET ME SHOW YOU WHAT A HERO DOES: DNA’s “Stonewall Jackson” breathes life into pop music with epic mythmaking
Saw these guys in Tell City, Indiana during their Schweitzer Fest performance the night before they laid down this spectacular live version of “Stonewall Jackson” at a show in Illinois. I had never heard the band prior to seeing their exceptional live show, yet I was singing along with this one instantly, the kind of thing which heralds a hit hands-down.
“Make ‘Stonewall Jackson’ the single and make station managers play it at knife-point,” I wrote in a quick email to the band after the set. “They’ll thank you for it later.” A month later I still agree. From the slow-burn guitar and keyboards opening to the frenzied chorus, the song’s got everything you need for a repeatable, ear-catching hook. And the rest of their songs fully live up to the hype, as fully laid bare on the band’s debut full-length Plenty of Thoughts.
There’s definitely plenty of room in the pop scene for a group of guys from St. Louis who have this much songwriting sense and the willingness to get out there and build a fan-base from the ground up. If you haven’t heard DNA, give the songa listen and then head over to their Facebook page. Then sit back and let your ears thank you.
Lift up your voices and say “Amen” as Paper Tongues lay down the best pop song of the year, bar none
You just gotta lay your weapons down
Forget about your problems
Just do you
No one else can solve them
That quote bears plenty of truth, but don’t underestimate the ability of a pop-heavy track to lift one’s spirits. Paper Tongues‘ “Amen is that song. Lay it all down and play this song, then repeat until it soaks into your soul.
Paper Tongues owe their career to a series of stunningly addictive tracks off their debut album Paper Tongues, which featured the infectious blitzkrieg attack of “Ride to California” — one listen made me an instant fan, as the audacious hook punched me in the throat, demanding I fist-pump as I gasped for breath. “If you were me, you’d do the same for sure!” lead singer Aswan North sneered and I had to agree. If I rocked like that, I’d write my own damned ticket.
Now they’re back, bigger than ever but without the weight of a major label holding them back. It’s all about the music, and with hooks like this who needs anything else? You best believe they’re bringing flaming nuggets of pop to your headphones, so when their EP Crowd Surfing hits next week you’ll be ready. Music today is all about virality, and in the case of “Amen,” you won’t be able to hold your tongue, paper or no.
A Lion Named Roar ready to put Louisville on the map with “This Won’t Last For Long,” MTV Buzzworthy single
Louisville’s A Lion Named Roar brings the best of Augustana and Kings of Leon to bear in a hearty mix of pop and rock you’ll be singing at top volume long before the first play ends. “This Won’t Last For Long” is ready-made pop-rock bliss, making it no wonder the band’s already had MTV Buzzworthy accolades and a spot on the Louisville Palace’s Faces At The Palace show with Field of Kings and The Foxery, this Friday the 19th. The band’s album Foreign Land doesn’t come out until November 27th, but if the rest of the album’s as good as the lead-off single, this is going to be a real winter keeper.